This morning, as I readied to work out, my son watched me dress in my work out gear. He mysteriously disappeared and reappeared a few minutes later, holding his tennis shoes and dressed in athletic shorts and a tee.
“Daddy, I’m ready to go. Let’s go run.”
He’s short of three years old and wouldn’t last a minute on a treadmill, nor would watching me on one for 25 minutes entertain him. I responded with a gentle, “No buddy. Not today. Daddy’s going to go on his own run. The equipment is big and dangerous. Too big for you. And you’ll be bored watching me.”
Asher didn’t seem shaken. He was cool about the whole thing. Yeah, he was a little disappointed, but I could tell he accepted the circumstances. As I left, I thought to myself, “I really hate telling him ‘No.’” There are the normal reasons for saying “No”, reasons that protect, train, and instruct. The hard times to say “No” are the relational times that would be so much fun to enjoy together.
I tell myself often, “Don’t try to accomplish too much with him. Don’t expect to get a lot done. Just enjoy being with him. Spend quality time with this little man. He’s yours to steward. God gave him as a gift so that he might carry on your legacy.”
It’s Hard to Imagine
It’s hard to imagine life without Asher. He’s funny, smart, clever, curious, busy, and courageous. He’s everything I was as a child, and he’s the uninhibited version of everything I still want to be. If the Lord took him home, I’d be sad…very sad.
Why am I thinking about this right now? Partly it is because God keeps putting death’s inevitability in my path. It started a couple weeks ago when our community group studied Galatians 3:10-14. We discussed the result of the curse: sin leading to death; we celebrated the freedom from this captivity that Christ offers.
Then I read this thoughtful post from Nancy Guthrie this week, “Please Don’t Make My Funeral About Me.” Here’s an excerpt:
When I die, you won’t have to wonder what I would have wanted. You’ll know. You’ll know that nothing would make me happier than for my funeral to be all about Christ instead of all about me. Please make it all about his righteous life and not my feeble efforts at good works. Make it about his coming to defeat death and not my courage (or lack thereof) in the face of death. Make it about his emergence from the grave with the keys to death and the grave, which changes everything about putting my body into a grave.
That’s it! That’s absolutely the attitude in which we approach death. But, how aware are we? Are we weary of death’s loom? It appears only to be so in those deafening reminders wrought in loss. That’s when Ecclesiastes 7:2 becomes real, ”It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”
More and More Reminders
Have you realized that it has been over a year since the tragic loss of Matthew Warren, the son of Rick Warren? Pastors are normally prepared to walk through the valley of death with others. But walking through it themselves must be excruciatingly painful, especially when it is with their own son. As Theodin King of Rohan in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers said, “No parent should have to bury their child.” Still, some do and will.
I had yet another reminder this morning. I stirred from my bed at 6:30am and glanced at my phone. There was a solitary text notification, “Scott’s dad passed away last night.” It was sent by my best friend, and it concerned the father of one of our other close friends from high school.
At a ten year high school reunion there is always that awkward discussion of who didn’t make it. I’m not talking about those who didn’t want to travel or those who think reunions are for schmucks. I’m talking about those who are held back by the curtain of death that stands between we, the living, and them, the deceased.
But it’s different when the first of our parents pass away. It’s sobering realizing that it’s only a matter of time before it could be my father or mother in a casket. And that saddens me.
I’m reminded of N D Willson from Death by Living:
My wife was laughing. She is laughing. She has not stopped. We ran from the darting sunlit rains and the lightning and the night.
We haven’t stopped running but we are getting slower. We have little people running with us now. We have passed others. Our own people will pass us. They will grow and meet others who are young and strong and they will feel as if they are part of the very beginning of life.
We may fall on our knees or into a final sleep, but we will see the inside of that storm. We will see the other side of that storm, where there is no death from living.
The young will mark the sand with a stone and gather round to scatter words on the wind and ponder the speed of time, of life, of grace.
I do it now.
And I Do It Now Too
If I’m honest, my running through life is a shallow attempt to evade death. I exercise as a therapeutic method to manage my fear of death’s loom.
Life is fleeting; time expires. But grace continues on. Grace wroughts grace — the grace God bestowed upon us we share with others — until we all enjoy grace together forever. In the meantime, we keep sharing; we keep caring for one another. Not just because grace wroughts grace but because glory emanates glory.
I want my son to experience grace and to see glory. Being a pastor’s kid is no easy way. For Asher, there will be other times I am compelled to say, “No.” This make me sensitive to the needs of my child. I want to be accessible to him. I want him to know how much I love him. I want him to see how significant he is to me.
As often as I may, he will be with me. He will especially be with me in those certain passages of life we need to run together. One of those is the passage of life that learns death. My son and I will learn this together. We will go to the hospitals; we will go to the funerals. We will look at death’s loom together and be sobered.
It will strike us closely as we let our loved ones go past death’s curtain.
I sense that now as my 93 year old grandma is into a senior living residence. In the coming weeks our family will visit that place we call home, Mansfield Texas. My three children will likely visit great-grandma for the last time. Little Asher will not fully understand what is coming, and I suppose neither do I. We will learn death together.
And meanwhile, we will learn to run together. We will enjoy the breeze on our backs and the hot sun on our faces.